Customer service is one of the most important elements of any business. It’s what will determine whether your customers stick with your brand or turn to your competitor. It can mean the difference between a horrible review and a glowing one after a questionable experience. It’s also a perfect way to measure your overall performance as a company, and discover new ways you can improve.
Unfortunately, this is all very hard to manage if you’re improvising your customer service strategy, or if you don’t have a strategy in place. That’s where customer service tools come into play.
With the right customer service tools, you’ll be able to measure, monitor, and better execute your customer service strategy. You may even be able to automate or simplify various customer service functions.
In this guide, I’ll cover some of the best customer service tools to meet various business needs and goals, and explain what makes them so valuable.
Table of Contents
- What Makes a Good Customer Service Tool?
- Universal Customer Service Tools
- Live Chat Customer Service Tools
- Help Desk, Call Center, and Social Media Customer Service Tools
- Getting Email Data in Customer Service
What Makes a Good Customer Service Tool?
How can you tell that you’re using a quality customer service tool?
Obviously, there’s a bit of a subjective component here, but you can make a better decision overall by considering:
- The right functionality. First, your customer service tool should have the right blend of different features. It should help you save time on certain tasks, or perform those tasks better. But it’s also important to consider the functions it has that you won’t be actively using; you don’t want to pay for features you don’t really need.
- Intuitiveness/usability. Your customer service agents will likely be the ones using this software on a regular basis, so you need to make sure it’s intuitive, or at least well-designed. It should be clear to your agents how to use this app from the beginning, and a short training session should be all it takes to get them up to speed. Any time your agents spend in additional training, or if they end up confused in the middle of an interaction, it’s going to cost you.
- Integrations. If you’re using multiple customer service tools (or sales tools), you may want to link them together, exchanging data and relying on the same banks of information. Not all apps work well together, so consider available integrations carefully. Similarly, some apps are self-contained, with built-in options for almost any feature you need.
- Measuring and analysis. One of the most important features of any customer service tool is its ability to help you measure and analyze your performance. Which customer service tactics are working well for you? Which interactions seem to play out best? Which of your agents are excelling, and which ones are struggling?
- Appropriate costs. Finally, you’ll need to think about the cost of each tool. It may be brilliantly designed, and it may have all the features you’re looking for, but is it going to completely wreck your customer service budget? Consider your return on investment (ROI) here; how much are you paying, how much time are you saving, and how much could you increase long-term customer loyalty?
Universal Customer Service Tools
We’ll start with some “universal” customer service tools, which are designed to give you functionality that covers the entire customer service experience. If you’re not sure what you need, or if you want something that can help you with a little bit of everything, one of these may be the right option:
First, there’s Zendesk, which has been around for many years. It’s a robust tool with features for sales teams, customer support, and customer engagement. With it, you’ll get a built-in help desk, options for live chat, a way to develop your own knowledge base, and even a cloud call center. There’s a free plan available, but if you want to upgrade, plans start at $9 per month. The plans are flexible, so you should be able to find a perfect combination for your brand. It’s near the top of our list of customer engagement platforms!
2. Help Scout.
Next up is Help Scout. It’s a customer service tool designed to help you with live chat, help chat features, and a built-in knowledge base so you can help your customers help themselves. You’ll also get “mailboxes” you can use to consolidate your incoming customer messages and ongoing conversations. Prices start at $25 per month per user, with optional upgrades available.
HelpCrunch is another all-purpose customer service tool that will help you with live chat, customer ticketing, knowledge base development, and more. It also helps you on the marketing and sales side of things, with built-in functionality for email marketing, popup ads, and more. All of your customer communications are consolidated into a single dashboard, making it easy to see how you’re progressing at a glance. Prices start at $15 per month per user.
The main draw of Intercom, as the name subtly suggests, is the live chat feature. But it also comes with help desk features, knowledge base development, and options for product tours and onsite chatbots. It’s got a little bit of everything, so you can use it to develop and maintain a comprehensive customer service strategy. Pricing starts at $38 per month.
With Drift, you’ll be able to manage live conversations, build chatbots from the ground up, and track customer tickets all in one place. There’s also functionality for sales and marketing strategies, so you can integrate your sales, marketing, and customer service teams in one location. The free version allows for basic support, but more advanced paid plans start at $50 per month.
Crisp is primarily a customer messaging platform, giving you features like live chat, chatbots, and knowledge base development tools. It’s not as robust as some of the other tools in this section, but it’s more reasonably priced, and in some ways, more streamlined. There’s a free plan with limited features (which is great if you’re just starting out), or paid plans start at $25 per month, per website.
As you might suspect from the name, LiveAgent also focuses heavily on its live chat feature. But you’ll also have access to a full cloud call center, a help desk, and options for your knowledge base. With the basic plan, you’ll get most of the core features you need for just $15 per month per user. But for a more comprehensive customer service tool, you’ll pay $39 per month per user.
Live Chat Customer Service Tools
One common struggle of customer service agents is being able to consistently and quickly respond to live chat prompts. These live chat customer service tools can help:
Chatra wants to make each user’s onsite experience better with a simplified live chat feature. Once integrated with your organization, you can use Chatra to create targeted chat messages, coordinate group chats between multiple agents, and learn more about your customers with data analytics. It starts at $19 per month per user.
With LiveChat, you’ll get access to a full range of live chat features, as well as some help desk functionality. With it, you can connect your live conversations and email communication channels together. Pricing starts at $19 per month per user.
10. Pure Chat.
EmailAnalytics Visualizes Your Team's Email Activity
- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- Salespeople spend an average of 13 hours per week on email.
Pure Chat is a live chat option with rich features, including full chat customization and optional features related to SMS text management. The cost is $49 per month for up to 4 agent seats.
ClickDesk offers not just live chat, but also support for customer ticketing, phone calls, and more. The big downside with this platform is its limited capacity; at the free level, you’ll be limited to 30 total customer chats. The paid subscriptions start at $14.99 per month, and they offer unlimited chats.
Olark is another option with simplified pricing, so you can easily get the best plan for your business. The live chat here is extremely user-friendly, so your agents should understand how it works almost immediately, with minimal training. File sharing, templates, and customer data tracking are all built in. Pricing is $17 per month per user.
If you’re interested in something more robust, you should consider Acquire. It gives your business not just live chat access, but the ability for customer service agents to view customers’ screens in real time. it also has support for other communication channels, like video and audio calls. The downside is the pricing, which starts at $300 per month.
Help Desk, Call Center, and Social Media Customer Service Tools
The remaining tools on this list are optimized for a specific function, though they may have additional functionality as well. These core features include things like help desk software, call center assistance suites, and social media customer service tools.
Helpjuice is a tool designed to make knowledge base creation easier. It’s almost exclusively made for knowledge base creation, and is the go-to tool for thousands of major brands. It’s very robust, with all the features you need to create a comprehensive knowledge base, but it’s also expensive, at $189 per month for the limited plan.
Freshdesk is one of the top names in helpdesk software, but it’s not strictly a helpdesk platform. Over the years, it has evolved significantly, and now has modular options you can add to create a more robust customer service experience; for example, you can purchase Freshdesk’s chat software, its call center software, its CRM platform, or all three. Pricing varies significantly depending on what you choose, but basic plans start at $19 per month per user.
HappyFox is a helpdesk tool that helps you coordinate your customer communications. It also has separate options for live chat and other features. With even the basic package, you can customize your own canned actions to simplify your conversations. Pricing starts at $39 per month per user.
17. Sprout Social.
Increasingly, customers are turning to social media to get support from brands, and Sprout Social has emerged as one of the best options for managing those conversations. It has tons of features for tracking social media interactions, as well as tools for social media marketing and advertising. Pricing starts at $99 per month per user, so using it as purely a customer service tool may not be the best option.
CallHippo is a feature-rich call center software option. It enables you to make voice-based communication with customers over the internet. It has features like a power dialer, smart call forwarding, call queuing, call analytics, and much more. Paid plans start at $14/user/month.
Another social media customer service tool is Buffer. With Buffer’s features, you’ll be able to publish new content, reply to customers, analyze conversations and more, selectively adding modules to your core service plan. Subscriptions start at $15 per month per user, but at $35 per month per user, you’ll have access to more in-depth automation features.
Talkdesk is a call center customer service tool that helps you easily manage all incoming customer phone calls. You can also record calls automatically, write and store notes on different customers, and set goals for things like call duration. You’ll need to contact Talkdesk for pricing.
Aircall is another call center-oriented option that allows you to track and manage all phone-based customer interactions in a single dashboard. With in-depth data analytics and real-time tracking, you can easily gauge your own effectiveness and improve efficiency. Plans start at $30 per month per user.
Getting Email Data in Customer Service
If you use email as a primary communication channel in your customer service strategy, these customer service tools may not be enough to help you understand and improve your customer service approach. For that, you’ll need a tool like EmailAnalytics.
With EmailAnalytics, you’ll be able to monitor all your agents’ email activity and monitor statistics like average email response time (a critical customer service KPI), and number of emails sent and received per day. Sign up for a free trial today, and get a look at the data visuals that can help you improve your customer service strategy!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.